My guest today is Sean D’Souza, author of The Brain Audit and the owner of Psychotactics.com. He’s a cartoonist and a marketer with more than 15 years experience in the field and makes a point to take a three-month vacation every year. In this episode, you’re going to learn how to convince people to buy without being pushy using Sean’s methodology called The Brain Audit. It works for all marketing and business types because it uses first principal thinking instead of relying on best practices that come and go. Listen in to learn this step by step process you can apply in your daily work starting today.
Episode About The Brain Audit:
Summary of The Book And Episode:
- Learning responsibility at a young age
- Overpromising by marketers
- Life satisfaction at a certain level of income
- The Brain Audit methodology
- Finding the target profile and solving their problem
- Answering customer objections
- Curating valuable testimonials
- Implementing successful risk reversals
Resources Related to The Brain Audit:
- How to Convince Someone to Buy (Without Being Pushy)
- The Brain Audit
- Originals by Adam Grant
Full Interview About The Brain Audit:
Louis: Sean, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I read your book, The Brain Audit, a few months ago now and it really, really showed me how I think a good business book should be written. You really took a lot of care into writing, the meaning and amount words necessary to convey your ideas and your book is also very tactical and very detailed and precise. I wanted to thank you for this book because it really made me a better marketer. The first question I have for you is what do an airport and our brain have in common?
Sean: The thing is that the book, The Brain Audit, it’s built around an analogy. The analogy is that imagine you’ve got seven red bags and you put them on a flight and then you get off at your airport and at that point in time you’re waiting for your red bag, you’re waiting at the conveyor belt or the carousel and one red bag shows up, and you pick it up. The second red bag shows up, you pick that one up. The third one shows up, you pick that up. Then you get an orange bag, a green bag, a purple bag and the fourth bag shows up, the fifth, and the sixth. The question is when you leave the airport and people don’t leave the airport until they got all their bags. That’s exactly what happens in the brain of the customer.
If you don’t remove even a single bag of their brain, that one bag that is going missing, they hesitate. That’s really what the airport analogy is all about. It’s about hesitation. It’s why does the customer almost come to the brink of buying something from you and then decide no, no. Let me think about it, let me speak to someone else, let me do some research. That’s approximately what The Brain Audit is about, that’s the analogy that it’s about.
Louis: It’s a great analogy. I think it’s good to think this way, I think it’s easier for people to comprehend some tough topic to understand. I think that’s also what I like about your approach is that it seems very simple but I think you managed to simplify it so much because you understood the problem so well. That’s difficult to do when you struggle with understanding a certain concept. It’s almost impossible to simplify it for everybody to understand and you’ve done that very well.
Today, what I’d like to do for this episode is really trying to take an example of a business or product that we could sell together and use your Brain Audit methodology to market it and to convince people to buy these particular things. We didn’t prepare that, I didn’t talk about it to you before so we can do it on the fly. Because as you notice I’m French, I like to use the French thing and we can come up with it right now. What type of product would you like to sell related to France?
Sean: Oh, I don’t know. You’re the one with the podcast, you decide the product.
Louis: Alright. We’re going to go for a bakery that specialize in selling croissants.
Sean: Okay, that’s cool.
Louis: That’s going to be the product.
Sean: Okay, that’s good enough. What’s your first question?
Louis: Before we go into the detail of this particular business, I just want to talk a bit about you in particular. As I mentioned, you’re the author of the book The Brain Audit, and 15 years ago or even a little bit more, you joined an advertising agency. You started to read 100 books a year, you are also known to spend three months vacation every year and you wake up at 4:00AM every morning. I know a lot of people ask you about this, but that’s quite interesting. Unlike me, you come from a family of teachers, which also is interesting. Is there any particular event in your life that made you who you are today?
Sean: I’m not a firm believer in inborn heaven. A lot of people believe that they are born with specific skills. What I found is that I had good teachers along the way. I just can’t remember who taught me what. So then, I became what most people call talented. To answer your question, a lot of people have contributed. I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but a lot of people have contributed over the years. As a result now, today, I can write and draw, as you can say, simplify things and dance and cook and do all that stuff. A lot of people along the way have contributed and I think that makes me who I am.
However, I think the biggest thing that was to my benefit was the fact that my parents gave me enormous responsibility. I didn’t realize it until I grew up. They made me do hundreds of things before I was 10.
Louis: Like what?
Sean: Oh, I was in charge for instance, just like in France, you don’t buy bread that’s necessarily in the bakery, you go and buy fresh bread for breakfast and probably fresh bread for dinner. That’s the way I grew up in India. I was in charge of bread, since I was very little. There was no question about the bakery being closed. I just had to go and buy bread from another bakery. I was in charge of taking my sister to school before I was 10 years old. It’s not like other countries where we just get on the bus. In India, the bus hits like one of those crazy sale cities you see where everyone tries to rush into the store at the same time. By the time I was 10, my sister was just three and I would take her to school. There were lots of little things like that. I had lots of duties around the house.
Just enormous number of things that I didn’t know I was doing and it made me succeed many times but failed more than succeed. To this day, that’s what I consider to be my greatest asset, the fact that failure is greater than success and that’s true for everybody but most people don’t recognize it. Out of 5 or 6 or 10 things that I do in a day, probably 1 or 2 will be to the standard that I would like. About four or five of them will be average, and two or three were just hopeless.
That’s the way I look at things and it was because of the way I was brought up. I was brought up just to keep going and do stuff. I don’t see anything like other people do which is what is success and what is this, what is that. This is fun, let’s keep doing it.
Louis: That’s something that is true. It’s difficult to take your distance from when you’re young, when you’re a kid and realizing what your parents are doing for you until you are a little bit older. My mom will do the same to me. She would give me a lot of stuff to do and put me out of my comfort zone and that’s something that I’ve been used to for a young age as well. That’s a good topic to get into and I guess we can spend the entire episode talking about this, but that’s not the topic. But thanks for sharing that. That’s interesting insight into your personality.
Going back to marketing in particular. I’m interested in hearing something from you. I’m not sure I’ve read anything related to that so I’m interested in your answer. Is there any so called marketing best practices or marketing stuff that boils your blood in general or that you think are just plain wrong?
Sean: Yes, I do. I can see that people make promises but they have made promises for hundreds of years. In English there’s a snake oil cellar or something like that, a salesman. What people do is they promise that you will double your income or you will double your customers for want of a better thing that you will have a shorter week or lesser hours or you’ll work at the beach. I don’t agree with that.
First of all, it’s completely boring. All of the people that make those promises, they are working very hard. I’ve been online since almost 200, that means we’ve had the website. I’ve been online before that, 1995 almost. I’ve seen the people that say they’re not working very hard or doing stuff and all of them are putting in more work than any of you. That’s true for everybody.
If you look at the top athlete, the number one athlete in the world is putting in more effort than the number two athlete by quite a bit. They sell these dreams and people buy the dreams and I’m okay with it but what we did was then we had to look at what is the opposite of the dream and the dream is hard work. We sell hard work. When people do that, they succeed and they get a skill. We don’t sell the dream, we sell the skill and people choose that skill. That’s the thing that really gets me upset. In a way, it’s good that it gets me upset because I’m more focused on being a teacher versus a preacher.
Louis: Why do you think so many people are doing it then? Why do you think people are over promising?
Sean: Because there are people who will buy. It’s very simple. The shortcut of the human brain is how do I use the least amount of resources and get the result that I want. The brain is a very complex object, it takes about 20% of the sugars in your body. It’s very energy consuming. One of its primary roles is to keep your life. If money or fame or whatever it is keeps you alive, and then makes you better than the way you are, then that’s what you do.
The thing is that the people who struggle the most end up buying most of these things. It’s just how it is. It’s what you call a scarcity mentality. When you know there is a scarcity, supposing you think tomorrow in France it’s going to be a storm or something. We’re not going to have bread, it doesn’t matter how much you have in the fridge, you go out there and get some more. People work on the scarcity mentality and the people who sell the stuff, they know what they are doing but after a while it becomes who they are so they don’t care. The fame and the money is more important to them than the results.
It’s very simple to figure out how good or bad a product is. You just have to look at the testimonials. The testimonials tell you everything that you need to know. First of all you look at the face of the people on the testimonial and say do these people look like my friends? And usually, the ones that get rich quick, those people don’t look like people you go out to lunch with.
The promise is here’s what we’re going to sell you, we’re going to sell you x-ray vision. And then you would say, okay. So the testimonials should say, I got x-ray vision, but it never says that. It says that was a great program, oh that was wonderful, oh the teacher was very good. That gives you the clues that you need to figure out that in the end, everyone got taken in by the [00:12:54] but didn’t get any skills, which is really sad.
People come to psychotactics every day. They spend thousands of dollars in this, one, two, three. They have a list of people. I’m going well, that’s good because now you’ll be a better customer.
Louis: I agree with you 100%. I like your analogy and explanation about the brain and the fact that the brain uses 20% of the sugar of the entire body. It’s wired in our DNA, isn’t it? It’s wired that if we manage to do something with the lowest effort possible and the greatest gain possible, then it’s the right thing to do. However, it doesn’t work like this in business, you have to put the work in. I like that very much.
Sean: You have to put the work in depending on what you want to achieve. For instance, if I wanted to earn $2,000 a month, then I would literally have to put in maybe 15 minutes of work in a day or maybe in a week. That’s where I am today. But when I started out, it would take me the whole week, including Saturdays and Sundays which I don’t work on anymore. I would still struggle to earn €2000 a week. It depends where you are.
And then the second thing, it depends on how much fame or how much money you want to earn. My goal is not fame or money, in fact what we have done since 2007, we have just had a benchmark. That benchmark is to earn twice as much as we need. 1/3 of that goes to taxes, which I’m very happy to pay, 1/3 of it goes to savings and investments and 1/3 of it, we spend, we travel three months a year. That’s my benchmark. We’ve almost had a fixed income since 2007 and we don’t need more than that. That’s cool with us.
If you want to keep working, and the reason why you keep working is not because specifically of the money but because I treat my products and services like versions. Like Photoshop, version one, version two. I keep improving that and that all takes time.
Louis: That’s a good explanation as well. When you say we, you’re talking about your family, you’re talking about your wife, are you working with her or is it your own business?
Sean: Yes. My wife and I work together. We’ve worked together for about 17-20 years now in this business.
Louis: That’s a good lesson against those companies that try to grow at any cost and making profit at any cost. There is no end to it. It’s like we need to double the profit as we did last year. I appreciate what you’re saying which is we earn three times more than we did and we’re happy with that. You could have invested into growing 10x over the next five years or growing into building a software and scaling and whatever but you’re not doing that. You seem to be a very calm and composed person who knows what he’s doing and it’s great to talk to somebody like this.
Sean: If you’ve got a soft heart, I’ve got a soft heart. Your soft heart is not actually softer than mine. You may have 10 times more than me, you might have 10 times of fame of me but your soft heart is not any different. The only thing that’s different is your life. My life is a benchmark on coffee and it is based on where I can have the coffee, who can I have the coffee with, and can I pay for that trip. Let’s say, you said, “Let’s go to Paris or to Barcelona,” and you’d say, “Can you have a coffee?” Technically, yes. I have the time for a coffee, I can get on a flight, get on to business class, sleep there, wake up in the morning, have the coffee, and then if I wanted, I could come back. Not many people can do that, not even the really rich and famous people because they don’t have the time. They might have the money, they might have the resources. I pride myself in having time, money and saying no to people that I don’t want to meet.
Louis: Yup, that’s a good life lesson, absolutely.
Let’s talk about the marketing side of things a little bit more. We started to talk about this at the start of the episode where we said I told you we’re going to pick a business and just try to use that as an example for your methodology. I don’t know how far we’re going to go because the brand [00:17:40] is very complete, there’s a few steps, but we’ll give it a try.
Let’s say we are a bakery selling croissant, we only do that. Let’s say to add a little bit of difficulty, we’re not going to be based in France because it will be too easy. Let’s say we are based in New York, per se. The first step of your methodology or the Brain Audit is to identify the problem.
Sean: No. The first step is to find the target profile. The target profile, so how do we find the target profile? Most people know the concept target audience. Audience is a group of people, group of teachers, a group of dancers, in this case a group of people who like croissants, or who like bread for that matter. But then we narrow it down and we say now we’re going to speak to one person and now let’s say that person is you. It’s very important that the person is not imaginary. You don’t want to create a person and you don’t want to create an audience, you want to find the person like I’m doing right now speaking to you. My question to you is when you look at this favorite bread of yours, what kind of problem do you run into? What issues do you run into? You’re in the US now, you’re used to a certain type of croissant in France, what is the issue that you have?
Louis: I’m based in Ireland actually, but that’s the same answer. I can’t find any good croissant, I can’t find the croissant that reminds me of my hometown. I can’t find those fresh ones that I like, they are just warm, not too warm, not too cold, it’s the perfect temperature, the perfect taste, they’re not too buttery, they don’t feel heavy in your stomach once you eat them. I can’t find any in Ireland at all, or in the US, maybe in New York, let’s keep it to Ireland, let’s say.
Sean: What you’ve done is you brought up a whole bunch of problems. You don’t realize it, you just said you can’t find something that’s not too heavy, not too buttery, what reminded you of home, not too heavy in the stomach. What we have to do is we have to isolate all of those four or five things that you brought up. Which is the one that bugs you the most? Those four or five things, which one bugs you the most?
Louis: I would say definitely that I can’t find any at all.
Sean: Okay. When you say you can’t find any but you can’t find the ones that remind you of home?
Louis: That will be the correct answer. I can’t find fresh ones that taste good.
Sean: What do you mean by fresh?
Louis: Fresh would be they made it only five minutes ago.
Sean: Now, we have an issue where, and this is quite critical because what you have is a croissant that was made five minutes ago, because that’s the way I grew up as well. Bread that was made five minutes ago, not bread that was sitting on the shelf. That is the problem; the problem is that customers are looking for that thing. Is the croissant that you’re eating six hours old, maybe even a day old? That’s the problem, that’s the first bag that you deal with.
Now, the customer who’s probably not so clear about how the French croissant needs to be eaten in your hometown is suddenly looking at six hours being a problem or even a day old being a really big problem. The solution is how to get a croissant that’s just been made five minutes old and tastes like it just came off from the bakery. Obviously we’re just speaking this, it needs to get some refinement.
What we have here is there is a problem. The problem that either the customer is aware of or the customer is not aware of. If you have a sandwich board or a board outside and you’re walking past, and it says, “fresh croissants” you’re not going to pay attention. But if it says, “Is your croissant six hours old?” And then the subheading says, “How to get a croissant that’s just five minutes old?” Even if you’re in a hurry, you’ll make a note of that.
Louis: That’s a solution as well. The way you explained is that you basically find your problem and then quickly after say that basically you have the solution, and the solution is basically the non-question way of explaining the same thing. I don’t know if I’m explaining myself clearly.
Sean: It’s the opposite. It’s the opposite of the problem. You can use a question, you can use a statement. It doesn’t matter how you use it but the point is that what customers pay attention to is not a solution. They pay attention to the problem, you pay attention not to great weather but you pay attention to the storm. You don’t pay attention to easy going road, you pay attention to the there is some block in the traffic. That’s how your brain functions. You have to look at what problem the customer is perceiving and your problem is that the croissant is not five minutes old. I can completely understand that.
You have to understand that the target profile are just a few people. But when I say just a few people, it might be a few thousand or a few million people that all have the exact same problem. What they want is a croissant that is just five minutes old. If you want to take this kind of analogy and then go across the globe, and ensure that your croissant is just five minutes old. Now, you have people coming in there expecting it to be five minutes old. But the thing is you have a problem, you have a solution, and now, you have your target profile.
That is the first section of The Brain Audit, which creates the attraction. You’re in a hurry, you are just reading the newspaper, you are just on a website, and you see this sign, you don’t know who this person is, you don’t know what this is but they have got your attention. That’s the main factor when you are dealing with a client. You need to get their attention.
Louis: The one thing that I know worries a lot of marketers when we think about target profile and making sure that you target people that are very specific not trying to reach out to everybody, is that they are worried that they’re going to miss out on certain people. They tend to try to expand their audience to other groups that might not suffer from the exact same problem. What would you answer to this worry?
Sean: The thing with target profile is to think of it as a dart board. Darts are played in different ways, I know that. But think of it as a bull’s eye. When you look at the bull’s eye, you can throw that dart specifically at the bull’s eye and that’s how you know that you have achieved something, but there’s the whole dartboard. Why not throw the dart anywhere at the board? Get any part of the board.
What you have to do is you have to exclude everything else. People go, but what if the audience also wants large croissants and what if they want this and they want that? Yes, they do, but when you look at all the really successful businesses over time. Say, the most boring, most used analogy now, which is Domino’s Pizza in the US. They didn’t promise a great pizza, they didn’t promise a vegetarian pizza, spicy pizza, they had all of these options and they could have taken, “We’ll do all the stuff.” But they only said, look, we’ll get there in 30 minutes or less.
That’s not different from this croissant being this five minute old. That became a billion dollar company on a single promise. What you’re saying or what other people say is let’s make all these promises and be like an average company. Sure! If that’s what you want to do, go for it.
Louis: That’s the perfect answer. Domino’s is a great example, there are plenty of others.
Sean: Volvo was the same thing. Volvo could promise a million things, they promised just one thing which is safety and then they built their whole company. Volvo was not a safety car company, they decided to be a safe car company. In The Brain Audit, I gave examples of hotels and say for instance Energizer battery. There are so many examples of companies that weren’t that way before. They just said, okay, this is the kind of crazy person we are after. Let’s go after this one person. Like the microphone I was speaking on right now. It cost $700, I have four other microphones. Why would I buy the fifth microphone that costs $700? The answer is that they specifically targeted people like me who wanted their audio to sound very natural. All the other microphones were not doing it for me and this one has and it’s a studio mic. It’s found in most studios in the world.
Louis: That’s what I’m trying to do as well with the podcast. I really try to focus on one particular problem and one particular target audience. It might be refined as we go, but I’m pretty happy with it. The fact that I’m able to explain anything in one sentence told me that I thought I had something precise enough that I could start working on.
Sean: Eventually, what you want is one problem. We solve many problems, you did that with the croissant. You said you wanted fresh, you said you wanted not so buttery, you said you don’t want it to be heavy. That’s where the second part of your message comes in.
If you’re walking to the store, they enter on one premise, which is that five minutes old. That’s what they can remember, that’s what they’re going to tell their friends, that’s what they are going to tell everybody else. They’re going to remember that because you’re saying this over and over again. However, once you enter the store, you can have a leaflet if it’s a physical store or on your website, you can have the other problems that you’re solving which is that it’s not too buttery, that it’s not heavy in your stomach. No one’s saying that you shouldn’t have that, you just don’t have it at the start. It’s like you’re going for a date, you have 200 shirts in your closet, let’s say you are that kind of person. Are you going to wear all the 200 shirts?
Sean: You wear your best shirt and you go out there. That’s the way you think about it.
Louis: We have the target profile. We have the problem, we have the solution. Then what are the next steps?
Sean: The next four are the risk factors. The moment someone decides that they want to engage with you, they want to buy from you, they want to deal with you, they actually go one step behind. They hesitate. So they bring up the objections. There are four bags after the objection, the risk reversal, the testimonials and finally, the uniqueness. We’ll tackle each one of them one by one. This all depends on whether you’re writing a sales page, or a bakery for instance, you’re just going to have just the problem-solution. There might be some objections.
What I do is I don’t write all the stuff myself, I don’t make it up, I just ask the client. If I said to you that we’re making this promise of five minutes, what are your objections? Do you have any objections?
Louis: I’d be worried that if we haven’t mentioned the buttery, I would be very worried that they are quick but they’re not good.
Sean: Okay, so that’s one of the objections. What else?
Louis: I would be worried that they’ll be sitting on my stomach. They will be too heavy.
Sean: Okay, that’s the second objection.
Louis: I would be worried that they will be too expensive then.
Sean: Okay, that’s a third one. Go for it.
Louis: I’ll be worried that they’ll be lying to me about the promise.
Sean: I know that because there’s a bakery that says it sells New Zealand’s healthiest bread and they don’t, I know.
Louis: Yeah, we are in the same boat there, we know that. That will be my biggest concerns. Are they actually genuine in their promise as well?
Sean: What we have is we have to bring out the objections because clients already have the objections, it doesn’t matter what you’re buying. If it’s something even slightly that you’re interested in which is why you’re buying it, well, you are going to have objections. Just hiding the objections, there’s no point in it. Bring up the objections.
In a bakery, you can have a board that brings up this objection and then kills the objections. In a bakery, you can have a leaflet. On a website, you could have these objections brought up and then you destroy the objections by telling them what you do and why this is not going to happen. But you have to bring up the objections because if you don’t bring them up, then the client is going to have them anyway. If they’re going to have them anyway, then they’re going to hesitate because you haven’t reduced those objections.
Usually you have about five or six big objections and then you just have really, really small objections. But if you bring up those five or six, what you’re showing is a fair degree of transparency and that is what clients appreciate.
Louis: One thing that I’ve discussed with clients, companies, and people before is that they are worried that if they bring up objections that people haven’t thought about before, that they might create more anxiety than they should have. Let’s say we have a company that I used to work for, they were worried that if they were mentioning the price or at least saying that they were not expensive or anything like this one, so the biggest objection which was how much does it cost, or I’m worried that it will cost too much. They were worried that they will be perceived as a brand that is based on price and they want to base it on value, so what will you say to that in particular?
Sean: Here’s the way, when you’re dealing with clients, supposing you’re trying to convince a client to do this and the client said, no, no, we don’t want to bring this up. You run the same story around them, tell them what did you buy recently. They’ll say I bought a computer. And then you go did you just go in the store and buy it? You didn’t have any objections? No, no, I surely had objections. I didn’t want the size. Okay, you had objections, the only problem is when you’re trying to sell your product, you assume that the customer doesn’t have objections. That’s not possible, because you can bring 10 people in a room, give them 10 products, and they will all have objections to buying.
See, the thing is that if I gave you two free tickets to a movie tonight, would you be happy?
Louis: Yeah, but what’s the catch?
Sean: Okay, so there. Straight away, you got the objection, right? The second thing is that maybe you’re not free tonight, maybe you have other appointments. Everything already has the objections. If a client say that bringing this up is not a good idea, you tell them, look, whatever you’re buying, you already have objections too. When you bring this up, what you’re doing is you’re telling the client I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve thought this through and now I’m giving you the response to it.
Our website for instance, sometimes we give away a $2,000 workshop. We just give it away. You’ll think that people go, oh sure! No, they don’t, they’ll go, what’s the catch? We write there what the catch is, why we’re doing it. And then they sign up anyway. The point is that every product or service is going to have objections. The more expensive it is, the more objections you’re going to have or the more worry you’re going to have about the risk you’re going to take. If you decide that you’re not going to put the objections, then if another competitor answers that objection, the business goes to them.
Louis: I like this approach as well because of the transparency as you said, you don’t have to use empty promises, promise something that is not true. You simply have to answer honestly to the objections that your customers have and it will be much easier to convince them to buy from you.
Sean: Yeah. You’re not convincing them. They are going through this routine anyway. It’s not like you’re convincing them, you’re just presetting the bag on that carousel, on that conveyor belt at the right time. Because at this point they’re feeling that risk. They’re going, okay, you have this high end consulting but I have this problem. Usually they bring it up but sometimes customers don’t bring it up.
On a website, there is no way for them to bring it up. Live sales meeting, yes, they may say, oh, you’re too cheap. What? Your objection is I’m too cheap? Yes, I have a problem with a company being too cheap because I think they will go out of business tomorrow. I have a great software that I use for email called Spot. It’s for the Mac, it’s amazing. But I’m really worried about it because they don’t charge anything for it.
Louis: It’s crazy the amount of stuff we are thinking about as soon as we voice them out as plenty of things. Even for the smallest product. What’s the next bag in this conveyor belt?
Sean: The next bag is the testimonials. The testimonials are really the flip side of the objections. We have objections but most people think of testimonials as just, oh, you really had a great product, or you really have a great service, or you have a great software, whatever. That’s not what a testimonial really should be. A testimonial should be the opposite of the objections. Clients will come up with objections like you’re too expensive, you’re too cheap, you’re too loud, you’re too soft, your bread is not buttery enough. What you’ve got to do is you have got to get clients to come up with testimonials that mirror those objections.
Let’s say you said I was afraid that the croissant would be too heavy on my stomach. This client, say Lydia, she says, “I eat all these croissants and they all make these big promises but eventually I feel like a bloated pig. Not this one. I have been eating this for eight weeks in a row, everyday on my way to work and I feel light and I enjoy my croissant moment.”
What you have done is you have taken the client and you have killed the objection. On a sales page, usually, what happens or in a sales pitch is that you bring up the objection and you kill the objection but you also want the client testimonials to then do it. You want it through what I call a reverse testimonial. You don’t see this very often because most people have testimonials that say, oh wow. Your product was so great, so wonderful. What we have is the opposite, which is the reverse. You start off with skepticism which is what most people do. When you go to buy a product, you say, I thought it was too heavy but here’s what I found. It’s a before and after.
The testimonials have to have at least these two factors. The first thing is that they have to be the opposite of the objection. You list all the objections and then you find customers who then answer those objections, who have testimonials for the objections. When you’re getting them to get those testimonials, make sure that they start off with the way they thought before. Which is it was too heavy but then they found it was light. That’s how you need to go about it.
Louis: I think a lot of people will find this tactic risky because they are used to seeing, exactly as like what you said, those testimonials that are over the top, that are way too nice for what they are and they feel like they are taking a risk by displaying testimonials that are actually mentioning the objection first and foremost and then into the customer basically debunking each objection. But we tried that a few times and it’s actually working very well. The idea came from you, from your book. That was really insightful.
Sean: It’s also there on Amazon. For instance, you will read their views where they say the pros of the software are, and they write their pros and then the cons of the software and you go, okay, this is a good testimonial. The testimonials says, oh, wow, this was wonderful. I loved it. Loved what?
Louis: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t help the case at all. We have the objections, we talk to people to understand exactly what key objections they had and then we use those testimonials, those fair, honest, very valuable testimonials. What’s the next step?
Sean: The next one is risk reversal. Most people think that money back guarantee is a good risk reversal. And it is, it is one of the risk reversals but it’s not the risk reversal.
For instance let me give you two examples, one from very early days. In the early days, what we used to do is we used to send out our information products and they would be with CDs and they would be like a binder with stuff in it. It will be all sealed and stuff and sent to clients.
When people returned it, we found that they would not open the packet. They will return the products that we’re selling to them and then asking for their money back and not opening the packet. What we realized was that they were afraid that if they open the packet and follow the pages or broke the CDs or broke the CDs, they will not get their money back. We created what was like a lawn mower guarantee. What we said was you take the notes, you take your CDs, you take a lawn mower and go over it and then put all the broken bits in a box and send it back to us and you’ll get your money back, because that was the risk. The risk wasn’t the money back, the risk was that factor, that one thing.
When you go into a café and you order a coffee, your risk might not be that the coffee is bad. It might be that it’s not the right temperature. With the croissant as well, there will be sudden risks, and the risk will be that you’re using some kind of bread that makes it heavy. There will be some risk that is completely different from money back.
When people say I offer a money back guarantee, the point is that I don’t want my money back. I already had my money before I gave it to you. What do I do by getting it back? What I want is I want you to deliver on your promise. I want you to understand what the risk is.
For instance we have courses online and our courses are quite expensive, $3,000, $3,500. People sign up in 20 minutes, we don’t do any big promotions like most marketers. We send out one email, in 15-20 minutes, every single seat is taken. How does that happen? Most of the people online, they offer you a money back guarantee, but they don’t offer you a skill guarantee. They’ll say we’ll give your money back but we won’t give you a skill. We say we do not give you your money back but we guarantee the skill.
If you join to learn how to write articles, there is no question about will I be a good article writer? You will put your article out there and you will see how people respond to it. If you’re a cartoonist, you walk into a café, you start drawing and people go how many years have you been a professional cartoonist? And you’ve been drawing for six months. We promise the skill and we guarantee the skill and we don’t offer money back. That’s the real risk.
The real risk is I don’t want to do another program where I get more information. I have enough information, now I’ve had enough, I want the skill. That’s why we have no problem filling up any of the courses or doing that kind of stuff because we guarantee the skill. You never leave without the skill. You walk in for x-ray vision, you get x-ray Vision. End of story.
Louis: Will you say that this risk is related to the key objection or the key problem? For example, for the croissant example. Let’s say that one critical factor, outside of the fact it might be too buttery, is the temperature of it. If it’s too cold, it’s disgusting. For example, I guarantee our risk aversion here would be if it’s too cold, we guarantee to give you another one for free that is at the temperature this time.
Sean: Now you’re thinking like The Brain Audit.
Louis: I read it a few times. I’m teaching a little bit. I’m doing my best, I hope it’s good enough.
Sean: That’s exactly it. That’s your risk. Once you’ve gone past the problem, you know that it’s fine, you know you have gone past the objections, you risk is now I’m getting very pedantic and I’m getting very fussy about this. This is my risk. When you serve the coffee, I don’t want it to be at this temperature. I don’t want it to be cold, I don’t want it to be too hot either. I just want it to be at 12 degrees or centigrade. Or whatever it is, this specific temperature. You can do that risk. You can manage it, you’re a baker, that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Louis: Exactly. The last bag in this conveyor belt is the uniqueness. Can you tell me more about this?
Sean: The uniqueness is the toughest one. The thing is that if you remove all the six bags and you just leave the last one, there’s a very good chance that you’ve set up your customer to go to the competition. Now, he knows everything about croissants, he knows all the objections, he just has to go to the competition and they offer something that’s kind of similar then he’ll go there.
When people say, okay, people are going to pay people who are cheaper and stuff. It’s because you haven’t described what makes yourself unique. I just did in the previous one. I said the difference between our courses and everybody else’s courses is that we offer skill, we don’t give you more information. You have the skill. That’s what people sign up for. You ask them why did you sign up, and they go because of the skill.
The way to create the uniqueness can be pretty complex but the way you want to do it is to make a list of all the things that you do. Say as a baker with your customer, this temperature is this… And then you pick the one thing that you think that this to me is the most important thing. I want to achieve this. This is the problem with the bags a bit because they can be slightly interchangeable. That temperature thing, that it’s always going to be 73 degrees could be either a risk factor or it could be a uniqueness factor.
Louis: Could it be both?
Sean: It could be both. But in order not to confuse your audience, this is what I do, I go to the target profile and I ask them what do you think is a risk? What do you think is a uniqueness based on what you just said? I’m asking you. What would you consider to be a unique croissant?
Louis: Outside of the temperature, I would say it’s the taste of it. If it finally tastes good, not too buttery.
Sean: Not too buttery. That is the thing. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to position yourself against the enemy as it were. You go, “Everyone makes a great croissant. It’s not that we don’t just make it but what they end up doing is putting too much butter. When you taste our croissant, you’ll find that it meets all the needs that you have plus it’s not too buttery.” That becomes your slogan. “Not too buttery.”
Here’s the point, no one remembers it. You think that everyone will remember your uniqueness, no one will. That’s what Domino’s did. “30 minutes or it’s free, 30 minutes or it’s free, 30 minutes or it’s free, 30 minutes or it’s free.” You have to say it over and over again. I say this on all of the courses. I will say, “We don’t give you more information, we give you skill, we don’t give you more information, we give you skill.”
For our membership site, I say, “It’s a place where introverts feel safe, introverts feel safe, introverts feel safe.” After a while, that’s the only thing they’ve heard. That’s why they think of it as unique because who else is saying it? Nobody else is saying it. If someone else copies it, some other pizza says, “30 minutes or it’s free.” You’ll go oh, that’s Domino’s. That’s how it works.
Louis: Sean, you’ve been great. Thanks for playing along with me in this example that I didn’t give you in advance. I just wanted to have a genuine conversation of the two of us. Before I let you go, outside of The Brain Audit, what are the top three resources you would recommend to digital marketers out there?
Sean: You mean on psychotactics? Or outside?
Louis: Outside. Any books or podcast or anything that made you a better marketer or anything you want.
Sean: I would say we started out with me reading 100 books a year, I would say you should read fewer. I would say that you should read probably one book a month. I tend to like books by Adam Grant. He writes really well, he goes deep into it. He has a book called Originals. Tim Halford is a another good writer.
What I tend to do is I read the book the first time and I also listen to it on audio. I don’t try to remember it. I know people say why I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything. I just listen to it, I read it and then I go back and then I make notes of what I read. I’m almost reading the same book three or four times now. I’m reading four or five books at the same time. The cross pollination happens.
Most creativity, I used to be a cartoonist, I’m still a cartoonist. It comes from two different sources which then merge to create one new thing or seemingly new thing. That’s what I would recommend that you go into this kind of scenario where you’re reading and you’re understanding that instead of trying to double everything and go twice the speed, slow down and it’s a great life to enjoy.
Louis: That’s a perfect way to end this podcast. Once again, Sean, thank you so much and I’ll talk to you soon.
Sean: Yup. Thank you.
How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.
I’m a no-fluff marketer living in Dublin, Ireland (but yeah, I’m French).
I believe you can treat people the way you’d like to be treated and still generate results without using sleazy, aggressive, hack-y marketing. This is why I’ve started Everyone Hates Marketers – a no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast – as a side project in April 2017.
I’m also the Content Lead at Hotjar – a powerful way to analyse people’s behaviour on your website or app and understand how you can improve their experience.